Persimmon, Pancetta, and Arugula Pasta

I often run across pasta recipes that include the addition of roasted winter squash. Recently, I was gifted with an abundance of Fuyu persimmons. I thought, since they are still firm, why not roast some and toss them into some rigatoni. What you don’t want to do is roast firm Hachiya (acorn shaped) ones. They are too astringent to be edible. What I did end up with though was something delicious.

Serves 4

4 -5 medium persimmons, peeled and cored and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme or Herbes de Provence
8 oz pancetta or bacon, 1/2-inch diced
8 oz rigatoni
1 large yellow onion, 1/4-inch dice
1 large red bell pepper, 1/4-inch dice
1 large carrot, 1/4-inch dice
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
3 large handfuls of arugula or spinach (about 3 cups packed)
1 cup (2 oz) Gruyère cheese, shredded
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Optional garnishes
Toasted chopped walnuts or pine nuts
Toasted breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degree F. In a medium bowl toss cubed persimmons  with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and add thyme. Stir to combine. Transfer to a sheet pan in a single layer and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until persimmons have softened slightly, can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife but still hold their shape. Set aside and let cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook rigatoni, or favorite pasta, to al dente according to package instructions. Before draining water, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and brown off pancetta. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper toweling. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat and sauté diced onion, bell pepper, and carrot. Cook until onions are translucent, and bell peppers and carrots are just tender. Add garlic and red pepper flakes (if adding) and sauté for about 30 seconds. The trick is not to let the garlic burn. Add arugula (or spinach) in three additions. Greens will wilt and decrease in volume as they cook.

Reduce heat to low and add Gruyère cheese. Add roasted persimmons and cooked, drained pasta. Toss to combine. The cheese will melt and get sticky. Add 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water to moisten pasta. Adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Continue adding reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time until pasta is well coated with the cheesy sauce. Divide among individual serving bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese and any of the optional garnishes. Serve immediately.

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